>> host: good morning and welcome to mosiac. i am rabbi eric weiss and happy to be your host this morning. local communities have spent time being -- looking at diversity and how to include young people and society. we would like shoot -- to tell you about an organization called beyond differences. we have the superintendent of schools for the san rafael school district and also the chairman of the board for beyond differences. let's jump in and talk about
what is beyond differences. >> it is a student leadership organization dedicated to ending social isolation and middle school. you may remember those moments in middle school where they felt left out, or that one child sitting by themselves every day. it's a culture to have them feel accepted and included when they show up each day. >> host: michael, how do you see how beyond differences punctures in the -- functions in the classroom? >> by being -- by bringing awareness to other students. they know those students who spend their time in the bathrooms or the library. by bringing an awareness of social isolation, there is
medical information that shows that it will impact students later in life. what we have been able to do with the organization is educate young people. it is through our community and in the east bay and portland area to educate other students about how they can help and have an impact. >> host: that is wonderful. laura, before we get too far, can you talk about the inception of beyond differences and how it came about? >> i can. it is a tragic story from my family. i have a daughter who was 15 who passed away in her sleep due to a medical condition. her face had disfigurement, if you will. when lily was in middle school, it became obvious to her and probably to her classmates that because of her differences, she began to feel left out.
when she passed away in her sleep, it was those children who approach me afterwords who said that they did not know they were leaving lily out and they felt sad about it and they wanted to do something in her honor. it was then and there that those young students stepped up and they came to me and said, we will do something now to speak to other children to make sure that they don't have to go through what lily went through when she was alive. >> host: who would realize that a peer group of that age would realize and come to one of their peers and talk about their situation and their sense of it in that way. >> it was extraordinary and we did not expect to be where we are six years later with such aced -- a robust student leadership program. it speaks to the wisdom of those children and also the need that we have seen over the last six years which continues
to grow and unfold for mike and i and the rest of the board and for teachers all over the united states who are working with our materials.>> host: will we talk about leadership development and the school district, can you talk concretely about what actually happens in the program? >> in a couple of minutes you will meet two of our high school board leaders. they mentor middle school students. we have programs where we go into middle schools and give assembly programs and we have develop curriculum that teachers can use easily. we have also scaled national awareness holidays, if you will, and mike can talk about our most popular programs. >> sure. we began with the program nobody eats alone. there are clicks where students sit alone and then some sit by
themselves. it is organized by students on the campus. they approach the students to play games or have a conversation, or something inclusive that makes them feel comfortable and part of the school program. we are proud that over the last few years that we have touched 1100 schools in all 50s states with programs that beyond differences is offering. we are providing opportunities so they can help their colleagues and their peers for those who are different in their eyes and those who can develop in the. >> host: mike and laura, we are going to take a quick break. join us in just a moment.
>> host: good morning and welcome to mosiac. i am rabbi eric wiseman. we are speaking to organizers of a wonderful organization that has spread across the country. welcome carl and sophia. you are two of the leaders of beyond differences, welcome carl and sophia. how did you become involved with beyond differences?>> we've been involved for about four years now. i started in eighth grade. originally, when i got involved, i was kind of thinking, what am i doing here? i may be too cool for this? once we started, nobody eats alone, i think they said we were the second school for the event.
they asked if there was a dj and id jade and played music at lunch every day. i saw people becoming friends with people they had never met or talked to before and that was the moment where i understood that we were making a difference. we are here to do something and i have a purpose in this organization. that's what skyrocketed me into what i am doing now. >> host: sophia, how did you get involved? >> my sister was part of the team board. i was socially isolated in middle school and when i saw her doing it, i knew it was my opportunity to help others feel more included in middle school so they wouldn't have to feel the way i felt. >> host: what do you do in the context of beyond differences? >> we do a lot of hands-on work and behind the scenes. we mentor middle schools --
schoolers and we go to assemblyman's -- assemblies. we also do fundraisers and social media work and stuff like that.>> i've done things like go to an internet safety conference in washington, dc and i have also spoken to educators and maine about how to kind of mediate and see what is going on in terms of their classrooms and what students are doing to treat each other in certain ways within the microcosm of the classroom environment. basically, we are educating adults at the same time as we educate the students at assemblies. that's how it works. >> host: i have a big question for you. it's not usual we get to talk with folks with your life experience. why do kids and young adults of your age group feel isolated? what is that?
go ahead sophia. >> in middle school, people explore who they want to be and who they see themselves as and that can cause a lot of problems when it comes to friends and having to separate because they think one person may be into something they are not and it is weird. so, problems develop because people think there are differences that keep them from being together when we should be accepting each other's differences and celebrating them. >> host: so people figure out what their gifts are and what they want to be in the world and how they understand their place in the world. that begins at early ages and then progresses through middle school and high school and beyond. are you seeing that part of the work of beyond differences is that it is okay to get to know
people for who they are and that you can be different and still be part of the group? to still be included, is that part of the undercurrent? >> absolutely. the thing about root -- beyond differences is celebrating differences instead of judging each other based upon those differences. we want everybody to be together and celebrate the way we are unique and different ways. >> host: and even with the political atmosphere and the presidential election, from your experience and the way in which you have grown, what is important to understand about the ways that people are different and included? what is important for society to grapple with?>> i think it is important for society to respect each other's
differences. and to be inclusive in a way that they know everybody is different and then coming together as people to mow forward in our everyday lives and celebrate everyone's differences instead of segregating ourselves. >> host: that's wonderful. believe it or not, we need to go to break. is there one thing you have learned about your self or something different as a result of being part of beyond differences? >> one thing i have learned about myself and about people in general is that the little things that happened to really matter. i was socially isolated in middle school because i was lost -- was from los angeles and i like to the dodgers and everybody like the giants when i moved up here. it was around the time of the world series. i think whether it is the fact
we have conversations about things that have started here in the bay area. welcome back laura thomas, the executive director, -- director of beyond differences. laura, can we begin this conversation and the way in which beyond differences has moved beyond the bay area to the national landscape? >> we are excited about that. about three years ago, we took the lunchtime event call no one eats alone and we scaled it from social media and through word-of-mouth from teacher to teacher. it is an over 1100 schools. we sent out free backpacks to any school in the united states who would like to do no one eats alone at their school. we specifically picked valentine's day, on or near to look at no one eats alone. that is a hard time for
students who do not have friends at school. it celebrates the holiday by making friendship more important. we are launching a new curriculum and special event called know your classmates which was modeled after president obama's white house initiative called know your neighbors. we have been partnering with friends to create a new curriculum called know your classmates and we will celebrate the day on october 21. >> host: that is so beautiful. carl, storytelling is for people to tell him -- to tell in their hearts, minds and souls. can you tell us a story?>> i think for me the most influential story that i can tell that has had the biggest impact on me was when i was a sophomore and leading a group
of about 20 sixth-graders. and i asked them like any group of sixth-graders or middle school or, can use -- share a story about when you were socially isolated, or when you saw a situation that you did something or maybe you didn't. nobody raised her hand and then a kid did and said, i've been bullied all my life because i was short. that took me back and i was thinking, it was kind of a no big deal kind of thing. and, i looked back at him and i saw that he had tears streaming down his face. that's when i realized that little things matter, as i said before. i put my hand on his shoulder and i was at a loss for words. at that point, the other 19 kids in the circle kind of
joined in to try to make him feel better and included in their group. i think that was probably the most beautiful moment that i have seen as part of this organization. the kids took the initiative to include the other ones who have been left out. >> host: that is fantastic. i'm curious to know that for you in that moment, was there some way that made you different from the next time you were with a kid or a peer who was talking about social isolation? >> absolutely. it changed my perspective on how social isolation works and how it can be a wide variety of things, and how i am making a difference. it was one of those indicators that i can do this and it's possible to get people to include each other. they just need to see a little bit of a light and they will do
it.>> host: there was something that changed your empathic stretch that gave you more confidence as a human being to take other points of leadership to speak up and to articulate things that you see and to try to change interaction, is that fair to say? >> all of that. yes, that's perfect. >> host: laura, i can imagine that in the dream that you had for this organization that there is so much that you have heard and seen. i'm just wondering if you can talk about the differences that have surprised you and have warmed your heart and have been significant in your observations. the big issue of inclusiveness and society. >> it is big and it is getting bigger every day. you talked about the political atmosphere and the anxiety that children are internalizing when
they turn up for school each day. because of current events and differences. my team leaders have been learning and teaching the younger students, the more we celebrate differences that we get to know each other as human beings. the more we create among children in the united states. we want to create new leaders and we want to make it cool to include. we don't need to feel sorry for one another, we just need to create a society in which we croom children to become leaders. that is my dream and my mission. i see so much evidence that other organizations and enlightened souls are doing the same. >> host: laura and carl, it is wonderful to have you and we will be back with more of mosiac in just a moment.
>> host: good morning and welcome back to mosiac. i am rabbi eric weiss and we have a wonderful conversation with people from beyond differences. welcome back michael and sophia. >> thank you. >> host: we will in our conversation in a short while, but before we do, can you talk about beyond differences.>> it is a national movement where our dream is that every student feels respected as an individual. as one of our cofounders have said, this is a social movement that we see among the youth of the community. i think when we look back at our middle school and junior high experiences, it is not a
pleasant memory. the goal is to change the dynamic and make sure it is a place where all kids feel welcome. we had early supporters and we feel that we got started there and we are really going national and we hope to bring an end to isolation.>> host: fantastic. how do you get the support? >> we have a few big supporters. we have at&t and the giants and the warriors. but we all -- we also get donations from a lot of different people.>> it is exciting trying to reach goals and things like that. >> host:. wonderful. before we say goodbye for the rest of our time together, how does somebody get into touch with the on differences and access?>> sure. all the programs are free.
if people are interested in getting our toolkit, just contact our website, or contact our offices in san rafael. as i said, all of the programs are free to schools and we rely on the kindness of others for donations and support so we can reach more students across the country and beyond.>> host: wonderful. sophia, can you talk just a little bit about how you feel like it has changed you and the way you are as a person in the world? >> it makes me more aware of my surroundings. you see in everyday life, people being isolated. it makes me more inclined to go to these people and walk the talk. that is what i have learned and it has changed me as a person. >> host: wonderful. michael, what is one thing you
have seen in your capacity of the change? >> by bringing the awareness to the adults in the school, it brings awareness to the students. it is something we have all seen and know about and it is providing the tools. that's where the change begins.>> host: tank you so much for being articulate about this issue and the wonderful organization, beyond differences and the wonderful work that we do. shall we talk just a little bit about what your hopes are sophia, about what you think for yourself and the work that you have done with beyond differences beyond high school? >> well, i hope that i can come back when i have children, when i am older, that they won't have to go through what these kids go through today. we have band social isolation
-- banned social isolation and middle school and high school. >> host: that would be wonderful. michael, is that something that you see? >> i have seen it happening. it touches for anybody having that experience. we see it happening every day in public schools. we want to make sure it ends.>> host: thank you so much michael and sophia. we will put a comment on the conversation. thank you so much.
america... donald j. trump took the oath of office just 9 days ago... and already the 45th president has taken steps to set his agenda. here with us to talk about it is kpix 5 political analyst melissa caen... just b welcome to bay sunday. i am your host, kenny choi . and his story quick with donald trump two offices just days ago and already he has taken steps to set his agenda. we have analyst melissa caen just back from washington, dc . it has been a crazy trip for you? >> it has. i lost my voice during the trip. we were in the cold and dealing with crowds and an unbelievable experience.>> host: how was the inauguration compared to those in the past? you